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    " unparalleled experience."

    "Robin and the local guides are quite adept at sniffing out unplanned photo opportunities
    and modifying the itinerary to take advantage of them." ~ Henry Li, 2006 Participant

  • young monks
  • woman
  • dancer
  • farming
  • reading
  • stupas


Now that I've come back from the tour, I would concur entirely that Robin Smillie/Rainbow Photo Tours offers an unparalleled experience. The logistical aspects of the tour are very well planned and coordinated by thelocal tour company (Rainbow Tours and Treks), including lodging,transportation, luggage transfers, etc. It is quite a treat to travel in a 4-door compact sedan (Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic - sized cars) with one other tour member, one guide, and one driver. This allows you to stop anywhere along the route for whatever time you and your fellow tour member in the car want. You get to know the other tour members quite well during the course of the two weeks. The special opportunities mentioned in the website are for real; for instance, at the Ura Village, we did indeed have lunch in the private temple of the local lama, had an audience with him, and sat in the back of his chambers watching him praying with his monks prior to beginning the religious festival. Meanwhile, in the courtyard outside the temple, a couple of other tour groups were waiting (in the rain, I might add) for the monks to emerge and begin a procession that marks the beginning of a religious festival. Yet it's not all planned and scripted; quite a bit is also based on serendipity and good fortune, keeping one's eyes and ears open. Robin Smillie and the local guides are quite adept at sniffing out unplanned opportunities and modifying the itinerary a little to take advantage of them.

Like many of the other participants on the 2006 tour, I brought a digital SLR camera.  Not only did it allow me to preview pictures on the spot, but it also served a "Polaroid-like" function for the subjects of our photos to view the results and allow them to see what we were doing.  I also decided to bring a tripod and a laptop computer and did not regret either, despite the extra weight.  In the dimly lit temples, for instance, a tripod allowed me to take photos that I would have been hard-pressed to do handheld, even at f2.8 and ISO 1600.  The laptop computer allowed me to perform RAW conversion and preliminary color adjustments each night, such that I could produce prints soon after returning home despite a heavy work schedule at my normal occupation.  My most-used focal length turned out to be 100mm (full-frame equivalent).  Other useful items included a portable storage device as back-up to the laptop hard disk (laptop hard disk developed bad sectors halfway through the trip and actually had to be replaced on my return home, although the computer did operate albeit very slowly) and the TrippLite power inverter to charge batteries in the cars.  A notebook to take notes on the photos also proved useful, as names and terminology began to blend together as the trip progressed.

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